MoviePass CEO backpedals on customer tracking
The app does not track your every move after all ... nowBy Cal Jeffrey
Earlier this month MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe bragged about how much data the company collects on customers.
"We know all about you," he said. "We get an enormous amount of information. We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards."
Aside from just being a creepy thing to say, it revealed that the company was collecting way more data on its customers than what was disclosed in its privacy agreement.
Later, the company issued a statement to clarify what Lowe had said.
"We are exploring utilizing location-based marketing as a way to help enhance the overall experience by creating more opportunities for our subscribers to enjoy all the various elements of a good movie night. We will not be selling the data that we gather. Rather, we will use it to better inform how to market potential customer benefits including discounts on transportation, coupons for nearby restaurants, and other similar opportunities."
This location tracking was made possible through the MoviePass app.
For obvious reasons, many took offense to the disclosure and rightly so. After all, having MoviePass track them to and from the theater was not part of the deal as they understood it. Even if the latter issued statement was true, and the company was only using the data for its own purposes and not selling it, it was still a privacy concern that was not made known to customers until Lowe spoke about it.
Lowe downplayed the impact of the privacy issue saying only about "half a dozen" people canceled their memberships because of it. "It's not a huge number," he said.
Despite the apparently minor impact on the company, Lowe seemed to be in damage control mode on Monday rolling back what he had said in an interview with Variety. He claimed he had been mistaken about what data the MoviePass app collects.
"I said something completely inaccurate as far as what we are doing," he said. "We only locate customers when they use the app. If you get in your car and drive five miles, we don't know where you are or where you are going."
The app has recently been updated with help from Apple to only check locations when looking for a theater or when "checking in" to a theater.
Previously the app used a standard iOS API that allowed for three privacy options --- never track, always track, or only track while using the app. Lowe says that the "track all the time" capability was never activated.
"We never used it, and it was confusing to have it there," he said of the update.
What the company eventually wants to do is use location data to make recommendations for places to go and things to do before and after movie going. For example, based on your location the app could suggest a restaurant close to the theater and offer coupons or discounts on a meal.
"When we do that, if we do that, we'll send a request to each customer to let them opt in or opt out," the CEO said.